We are pleased to welcome novelist and fellow bookstore owner Linda Kass to the Penguin as we celebrate the release of her novel, Bessie. Linda will be joined by author Sherrie Flick to engage in a discussion about Linda's experiences in writing the book. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A with the audience. Guests will also have the opportunity to have copies of Bessie signed afterwards. We hope you'll join us!
Linda Kass is the author of two historical novels, Tasa’s Song and A Ritchie Boy, the 2021 IPPY Gold Medal Winner in Historical Fiction. Bessie was named A Hasty Book List Most-Anticipated Historical Fiction Title for 2023. Linda began her career as a magazine journalist and correspondent for regional and national publications. She is the founder and owner of Gramercy Books, an independent bookstore in Columbus, Ohio. Find her online at lindakass.com
Sherrie Flick is the author of four books, including two short story collections, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Whiskey, Etc.,both published by Autumn House Press. Co-editor for the 2023 anthology Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton), she also served as series editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018, and is a senior editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. She lives in Pittsburgh where she is a senior lecturer at Chatham University. Her debut essay collection, Homing: Instincts of a Rustbelt Feminist is forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press in 2024.
Just days after the close of World War II, Bess Myerson, the daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Bronx, is competing in the Miss America pageant. At stake: a $5,000 scholarship. The tension and excitement in Atlantic City's Warner Theatre are palpable, especially for traumatized Jews rooting for one of their own. So begins Bessie.
Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Bessie reimagines the early life of Bess Myerson, who, in 1945 at age twenty-one, remarkably rises to become one of the most famous women in America. This intimate fictional portrait reveals the transformation of the nearly six-foot-tall, self-deprecating yet talented preteen into an exemplar of beauty, a peripheral quality in her world, where success is measured by intellectual attainment. Yet it is the focus on her beauty, and the secular world of pageantry, that she must choose to escape her roots and fulfill her fierce desire to achieve and become someone for whom great things happen.
"I loved Linda Kass's Bessie, which brought to vivid life the coming-of-age of the remarkable Bess Myerson, who may be known for being Miss America, but who truly was so much more: a brilliant young scholar, a musical prodigy, and a woman who stood tall against the anti-Semitism, sexism, and injustice of her era. Kass is a superbly talented writer, and in her hands, Bess Myerson becomes every woman, and the amazing story of her time becomes the story of our time, too. Brava!" --Lisa Scottoline, New York Times best-selling author of Eternal